Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Game Review: Alundra (PS One)

Alundra is a PS One Classic beloved by gamers because of its insane puzzles. While its gameplay mimics The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past -- a peerless SNES game -- a major difference is Alundra’s ability to jump, which is often critical to progressing through dungeons and accessing treasure chests on the main map. The game also boasts an amazing soundtrack. As for the story, it’s your standard hero-of-prophecy must battle hidden-dark-forces. The meh-ness of the plot is easily overshadowed by the challenge of the puzzles that players must solve.

Let’s talk about each of the elements that make Alundra shine:

Puzzles: 10/10 
In the world of Alundra, there are two types of dungeons: actual physical locations (e.g. a coal mine, a reptile lair), or inside someone’s nightmare. Both types require going through locked doors to move forward, which means Alundra must find keys, or push buttons, in locations that can sometimes be described as how-the-heck-do-I-reach-that???. While this is easy enough when players first start, the dungeons become bigger and more elaborate, and there’s plenty of backtracking to do.

Jumping is an especially frustrating and yet fun aspect of puzzle-solving. There are many instances when you conclude that you must make a seemingly impossible jump, so you bring Alundra to the verrrry edge, cross your fingers, and leap! And when you get to the other side, your heart goes, “DID YOU SEE THAT? I AM A CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS!” (Now that I think about it, Alundra is so fun because it combines Zelda with Mario. Excuse me while I write a game script mixing Pokemon and Duck Hunt, somehow.)

Even though weak jumping skills make this game painful, you will eventually become a boss jumper because, as they say, “Every failure is an opportunity to improve,” and boy did I fail a lot. For me, the payoff was pride in my gaming skills. #yassss (←I do not know what this means but it seems apropos)

Soundtrack: 10/10 
Every track is perfection. I especially adored “The Shrine of the Lake,” the incredible piece for the final dungeon that evokes the ruined majesty of the place. And it was important for this piece to rock, because players will be at that dungeon for at least 30 minutes, meaning the track will have looped over a dozen times by the time the door to the final boss opens.

If you are ever on the YouTube, check out the full soundtrack uploaded by a fellow named Fresh Paprika.

Story: 8/10
While the overall plot is predictable, Alundra gets high points for its unflinching murder of NPCs. See, a character portrait on an NPC means s/he is important – and suddenly, boom! Dead. My expectations, they were subverted! Well done!

Gameplay: 7/10
Above average for so effectively adding in jumping to Alundra's range of abilities, and for the Gilded Falcon collectibles. But there are items and weapons that barely do anything. I mean, I used the bow twice, and never used the Wind Book. Plus, it ripped off A Link to the Past so much that I expected to have to chase chickens. And [spoiler alert] I didn't! WHERE IS MY CHICKEN CHASING MISSION.

Also, oddly, the PS Vita port of the game uses the back of the device as a shortcut to the menu, which made for awkward interruptions during crucial jumps whenever I gripped the Vita wrong and swiped at the danger zone.

Still, I had a blast!


True story: I had a copy of Alundra for the PS One back in the day, but gave up on the game because I couldn’t get past a particular puzzle. So when I saw it on the Sony Network store, I was all, “This time I’ll win! Because now there are walkthroughs! Mwahahahaaaa~”

When I eventually got to that beautiful screen proclaiming “The End” (and the only way to leave that screen is to reset!), my heart swelled with pride. Thank you, Daniel J. Garcia, aka PhamtonPain for your detailed guide!

TL;DR: A great throwback from the pre-3D gaming era. Recommended! 

This post brought to you by stroopwafels, which I just heard is sold at Whole Foods! Expedition to confirm intel scheduled this weekend!